Evanston residents sue school district over guns policy

EVANSTON — Two Evanston attorneys are suing Uinta County School District No. 1 over the district’s recently adopted policy CKA, which allows district staff to carry concealed firearms in schools.

The suit, filed in Third District Court on June 7 by Sharon Rose of The Rose Law Firm on behalf of plaintiffs Tim Beppler and Monica Vozakis and her minor children, alleges the district failed to follow requirements of the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act (WAPA) in adopting the policy and therefore the policy is null and void.

Court documents show the plaintiffs are arguing that the language of Wyoming statute 21-3-132 — the School Firearms Statute passed during the 2017 legislative session — explicitly states that boards of trustees may adopt “rules and regulations” to allow school employees to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

The filing further argues the creation of such substantive rules must follow rulemaking requirements of WAPA, including a minimum of 45 days’ written notice to the attorney general, secretary of state and other interested persons regarding the substance of the proposed rule; the reasons for adoption of the rule; the statute that authorizes the rule’s creation; and the place where interested parties may obtain a copy of the proposed rule. Plaintiffs allege that these requirements were not met when UCSD No. 1 adopted policy CKA.

The court documents state that during the first reading of the policy in February, the policy itself was not final and had therefore not been made available to the public, and further states that district superintendent Ryan Thomas said publicly during the second reading in March that “the text of the policy was not final and would need to be revised further.”

The documents also reference the “clear confusion among the Board, the Board’s attorney, District staff, and the public about the number of readings required before the School Firearms Policy could be adopted.”

The suit further alleges that the expenditure of any public funds on policy implementation would be exceeding the authority of the board because of the failure to adhere to the rulemaking requirements of WAPA.

The court filing asks that a judgment be entered that the policy is null and void, that the district be required to immediately cease implementation of the policy and take steps at a future regularly-scheduled board meeting to rescind the policy, and to “commence rulemaking proceedings that comply with the School Firearms Statute and the WAPA.”

In addition to the suit, the plaintiffs have also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent any further implementation of the policy while the case is being litigated.

The motion alleges that the plaintiffs notified the board on April 9 that the requirements of WAPA had not been met, and further alleges that “without public action by the Board, Geoffrey J. Phillips, attorney for the Board, replied by stating that the District was not required to apply the rulemaking process under the WAPA, and that all administrative remedies had been exhausted by the Plaintiffs.”

The motion for injunction also states Vozakis submitted a request to the district in March asking that her children not be placed in classrooms with any teacher or employee who was carrying a firearm, and that her request was denied by Thomas, again without any public action by the board.

The plaintiffs argue that an injunction is appropriate at this time because it would maintain the status quo by keeping in place the current policy in which firearms are not permitted on district property and that allowing the district to move forward with implementation of the policy pending the outcome of the litigation could result in irreparable harm to the plaintiffs.

The irreparable harm referred to in the documents includes the expenditure of taxpayer dollars on liability insurance, psychological evaluations, firearm training, biometric lockboxes and more. Court documents also refer to harm to Vozakis and her children if they are forced to be in the presence of firearms at school, expressly against her parental wishes and rights.

The motion for injunction also claims the district would not be harmed in any way by delaying implementation of the policy while litigation is pending.

A hearing in the case has been set for 9 a.m. on July 12.

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